Two years ago, UCLA Anderson introduced an application essay question that required candidates to creatively express themselves. Last year, the school made the question optional. This year, it dropped this much-discussed essay question altogether. Were the segments overproduced? Did the question give a technological advantage to some, but not others? Who can say? What we do know is that UCLA Anderson’s essay questions this season are now pretty sparse. Essay one offers your best opportunity to stand out, so use it wisely.
Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.
1. What events or people have had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)
In offering you the opportunity to discuss an event or people that have shaped your character, UCLA Anderson is trying to learn, not about others, but about you through others. So, if you were to write about Gandhi, you are not writing a biography of the man, but the story of his influence on you. Of course, we strongly advise that you not write about how Gandhi, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or some other highly notable public figure influenced you, because it will be very difficult to own your connection to this person – how has Gandhi, for example, influenced you, in a way that he has not influenced others? It is possible to write about how a less public philosopher or business leader influenced you, but the connection must truly be profound and his/her influences must be very deliberate in your current actions. You have to show how this person’s influence has manifest and indeed, “shaped” you.
Many candidates will write about family members, who can be a fine choice. Again, what needs to be clear is the cause and effect relationship. The reader needs to understand the profound influence the individual has had on you and needs not to learn about you through this person
Bad: My grandfather was born in 1935 in what is now Slovakia. He grew up on a farm and has subsequently always loved to grow his own vegetables.
Good: My first memories come from my grandfather’s garden, pulling up carrots, picking tomatoes and digging up potatoes. As we harvested what we had grown together, he would laugh and say to me, “You have to take time to watch the potatoes bloom…”
With respect to events, again, we are similarly learning about you through an externality and again, the event need not be known to the public, but here you have more leeway. For example, one could talk about the changes that occurred when a loved one went to fight in Iraq, but then, the experience is still focused on you and your life, your family, not on the war. Still, you need not worry if you did not have an experience that was this profound. Again, you simply need to think about an event that became an experience for you and the impact of it must be highly personal.
We often advise applicants to tell their stories narratively and to launch directly into the action; this approach would work particularly well for this essay. Starting this essay with a formal introduction, wherein you sum up for the reader what he/she is about to be told in the rest of the text, will prevent you from being able to create momentum or suspense in your story. Consider the following example:
Bad: “The most influential event in my life occurred when I defied expectations and was elected student president of my 50,000 person college.”
With this kind of opening, where is the mystery? Where do you go from there? By contrast, consider the following:
Good: “Rushing to class on a chilly fall morning, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a poster advertising the upcoming class elections.”
By launching into the “action” of your story and maintaining the mystery within it, you will grab and hold your reader’s attention, and the story of your shaping event will have maximum impact.
2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (750 words)
Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.
Do not use up precious word count here detailing your professional career and accomplishments to date, but do include some general reference to your past work experience to frame why you need an MBA education to attain your stated goals. You must then clearly explain what UCLA Anderson offers in particular that will help you. As always, avoid telling the school what it already knows about itself, and instead strive to demonstrate links between specific offerings at the school and your aspirations. You will need to do your research to best identify direct ties between what Anderson offers and your professional goals, personal beliefs, study style, etc. The deeper your knowledge of the school, the easier pinpointing specific resources will be in the context of your future success, and thus, the more effective your essay will be. Take time to go beyond the school’s view book and Web site and contact students and alumni—and, ideally, visit the school and attend a class.
For a thorough exploration of UCLA Anderson’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the UCLA Anderson School of Management.